The owner of Les Zygomates has taken over a neighboring space (which hasn't had worthwhile food in years). Tonight, we gave it a shot. Nice redo: it's warmer, airier, more organic: many shades of ivory-to-brown.
Settling into a comfy banquette, we get the hard sell on a list of martinis-for-beginners, gloopy-sweet strained cocktails (there's a caramel vodka now, apparently) that we wouldn't order for dessert, much less as an aperitif. Easy to ignore.
We order a couple of what look like chichetti, but turn out to be big honkin' apps: a garlicky white bean puree with a welcome pesto drizzle, and a salumi plate with excellent sopresata and a fabulous salami-like cold cut, garnished with cranberry chutney, crunchy pickled green beans, and a dried apricot relish. At about $7 each, these are delicious and pretty filling, along with the rather good bread.
Knowing we can't finish them by half, we order a pizza (listed as "for one", but at 12-13", plenty for two): grilled chicken, lots of fresh rosemary, and a sharp dry cheese (peccorino Romano?). The pizza has a nice wood-over char, thinnish crust, obviously fresh ingredients, but it doesn't quite rise to the level of our paragon, Emma's. But very good, especially for a gourment pie in this swanky setting for about $15.
Piling on for the sake of trying things, we also get a pasta of rigatoni with homemade pork sausage, vinegar peppers, and a fresh-tomato sauce. This is likewise lovely, not quite transporting. There is a lot of it for its high-teens price.
The wine list is pricier than I'd like; only one wine near $20, with most $40 and up. We find a passable Romagnian Sangiovese for $30; a gouge, but not a swindle.
Service is earnest if obviously not highly experienced. Friendliness and hustle compensate for lack of efficiency and ease with the basics of serving and clearing.
Check comes to $70 before tip, and we bring home half the pizza, half the pasta. A decent deal all around, and clearly a huge step up foodwise from the prior two tenants (though in fact I never dined at the allegedly terrible Epiphany).
I'm disappointed that the Les Zyg folks haven't made this more friendly to wine drinkers. Presumably they're counting on an old Oskar's/Epiphany crowd of dressed-up, ready-to-hook-up twenty-somethings who will pay $10+ for drinks that look (served in cocktail glasses) but don't taste like grown-up drinks.
The menu offers a lot of serious-looking grilled-meat and -fish entrees, but I'm guessing that when I come back, I'll stick to sharing the nice-priced small plates, pastas, and pizzas. If they add some wines priced to match this kind of good, casual food, I'll be tempted to come back a lot more.